A Week in Links: June 9

It’s been awhile since anything has been posted on this site and the two and a half dedicated readers have been very angry with me because of it. So, in lieu of a real post (coming soon, probably) here are some other people’s fine work for you to enjoyably peruse.

I try and keep these links in some sort of categorical order that makes the most sense so the most logical place to start would be the NBA Finals. The Heat are appearing in their third consecutive Finals and the old, jaunty, never-say-die San Antonio Spurs are back into the fold with their three-point shooting and their foreigners and their bank shots.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is notorious for his five words or less in-game interviews. He’s tried so hard to be un-entertaining that he has actually become entertaining. I tune in sometimes not to watch the Spurs, but to count the words he says to Doris Burke or Craig Sager.

ESPN’s Marc Stein interviewed reporters who had interviewed “Pop,” and it is outstanding.

Grantland’s Bill Simmons wrote in an ESPN.com piece in 2009 that “subjects of hostage videos look happier than Pop during a mandatory in-game interview.”

***

The Confederations Cup is starting in Brazil this Friday and the home nation wants to win it and every other international soccer event in which they are entered. The Confed Cup is a tournament held in a nation the year before it hosts the World Cup. The winners of the eight international divisions (UEFA, CONMEBOL, CONCACAF, CAF, AFC, OFC. Basically the continents) are grouped together and play in a tournament that mostly serves as a trial-run to the actual World Cup.

Brazil has a young, talented team that has the potential to defeat the world. The only problem is that their greatest superstar is 21 and has the hair of a Macaroni Penguin. He always wears a Breathe-Right nasal strip when he plays, which I bet woos all of the Brazilinas. His name is Neymar and he can juke people out of their zapatos, or whatever “shoes” is in Portuguese.

ESPN’s Wayne Drehs profiled Neymar and wonders if the young Neymar is ready to carry the weight of a soccer-crazed nation on his skinny shoulders.

Whether Neymar likes it or not, the comparisons are inevitable. When you ask people in these parts about the boy, there is one name that continues to pop up: Pele. It’s laughable, really. Pele was the greatest soccer player who ever lived. He is the only footballer to have won three World Cups. And he scored more than 1,200 goals in his mind-boggling career.

They’re from the same town. No pressure.

“He has the football potential to be one of the best players in the world,” Pele said. “Or maybe not. It is up to him.”

The other soccer-related story is a massive, in-depth piece from ESPN’s best writer and most talented person on staff, Wright Thompson. He goes into the deeply rooted culture of racism in Italian soccer. And some of the things that he witnesses are unbelievable. The story has been told before by Real Sports or 60 Minutes (probably), but Thompson is so utterly thorough and relays the story as if you are standing next to him during the entire experience. Racism is a clear problem in international soccer, especially in Italy, and I’m not sure how it gets fixed.

Italy is in crisis. I think that’s safe to say. Something new is arising out of something old. I don’t know whether it’s a first breath or a last gasp. James Walston, the professor, thinks all the racial abuse is a sign that Italy has changed, and this is a defiant last stand before a multi-cultural society emerges. Maybe he’s right. I don’t know.

***

Because college football is never close enough, here’s two from Every Day Should Be Saturday’s Spencer Hall.

The first is when Hall sat down with Baylor’s coach Art Briles, who seems like the perfect candidate to take over Mack Brown’s job at Texas when ol’ Mack sees fit. And Briles seems like he would have no problem stepping in as the next coach in whatever the next iteration of Friday Night Lights happens to be. He’s pure Texas, and it’s great.

Photo: AnnArbor.com

Hall returned to his normal EDSBS digs and has provided a list of college football textspeak for recruiting and all over necessary endeavors.

A few of my personal favorites are:

“GTFO = Go Trojans, Fight On!” (Obviously)

“LMAO: Les Miles Amateur Orthodontist. Common text message for LSU recruits explaining why coach needs you to come to a Baton Rouge storage unit with a lot of Tylenol, some paper towels, and no questions asked.”

“TTUL = Tommy Tuberville Usually Leaves

TTMHLPCHO = Tommy Tuberville may have left please check his office.”

“ERROR = Steve Spurrier doesn’t have a cell phone and even if he did he wouldn’t just leave it on in the middle of a round.”

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